Kosher Highlights

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Video: Shahar Wins The Bronze For Israel!

 (Hat Tip: IsRealli, Image Credit:

What started out as a "practice sail" for Shahar Zubari (who ironically entered the Beijing Olympics to help train for the 2012 London Olympics) turned into a bronze medal finish for the young Israeli sailor.

(Ynet News) Despite an ominous start to the final sail, in which the surfers had to go back to the starting line due to a disqualification by the Greek surfer – who lost 20 points – Tzuberi was able to make up for lost time and gain the lead; finishing the crucial final race – which allows for a double score – in second place, ranking third overall. [...]

"I did it!" said Tzuberi immediately after the results were confirmed, a huge smile on his face. "This took a lot of hard work. I'm very happy about this achievement and about how happy everyone is back home."

Recounting the sail, Tzuberi said, "I had a good start but then I had to go back because of the disqualification. I knew throughout the race that I could better my position… I made some strategic decisions and they paid off. After the first buoy I could see it was possible and I went for it."

After previously mistaking Shahar's "fourth place" as a no medal finish, I actually discovered later on that Shahar Zubari did in fact win the bronze metal (note: much to my delight!).

This is a proud moment for Israel, although hopefully we will see Shahar win the gold--next time in London!

Israel: Did You Say Free Cellular Phone Calls?

HOT Cable Systems, a broadband cable company in Israel has found an interesting way of offering customers free calls on their landlines without going broke.

(Globes Online) For the first time in Israel, a telephone company has launched a pilot for free cellular telephone calls in exchange for listening to advertisements. Sources inform ''Globes'' that HOT Cable Systems Media Ltd. (TASE: HOT) plans to launch just such a pilot next week. Participants will dial a designated number and then the cellular number of the recipient. They will then have to listen to a 6-10 second advertisement before being connected.

Customers will accumulate call-minutes. After six minutes, the system will automatically send the advertisements again before allowing the free call to continue.

Unfortunately this plan seems to be limited within Israel, as there is no mention of users being able to dial internationally for free (in exchange for listening to advertisements).

Note: Another company called Spikko is also offering free calls, although they have yet to open up their site to the outside world (which means I will probably be using Skype to contact friends in the holy land).

Belated: 290 Make Aliyah Towards Israel!

Almost 300 Jews decided to pack up their stuff, say farewell to their friends and make Aliyah towards the holy land! What makes this news even sweeter is the fact that almost a third of them were children.

(Israel National News) More than 100 children were among the 290 new "anglo" immigrants who landed at Ben Gurion International Airport Tuesday morning.

An El Al plane, the fourth of five Nefesh B'Nefesh summer aliyah flights from New York, also carried Israel's newest citizens from Canada, as it touched down just minutes after the seventh Nefesh B'Nefesh group flight from the UK. [...]

Among the 240 new Israelis arriving from New York were 100 children, 46 families, 18 singles and six IDF soldiers, with the immigrants ranging in age from one month old to 72.

While the group is not as large as the last one highlighted on IsraGood, it's still good to see so many parents choosing to raise their kids in Israel instead of abroad.

Note: Jacob Richman (of Good News from Israel) took way too many pictures (note: which is always a good thing) which may appeal to those who can not satisfy their thirst of seeing Jews make Aliyah towards Israel.

Monday, August 18, 2008

iBlessing: Keeping You Kosher Via iPhone (Free)

While scrolling through the Apple App store (on iTunes), I came across a really cool iPhone app called iBlessing that helps beginners in Hebrew learn to recite the correct prayer over their meal (as praying over bread is apparently different then praying over meat).

Once the screen loads up, all a user has to do is touch one of the food items on the table and iBlessing will not only say the correct prayer in Hebrew, but offer an English translation for those not yet fluent in the kosher tongue (note: this author included).

iBlessing is the product of the Jewish Learning Group, who some readers may recognize as the creater of the famous Say-a-Blessing electronic keychain.

While there are other similar iPhone apps available (like KosherMe from Fill My Head), this app is provided free of charge--a price I admit is hard to beat! ;-)

Note: More Kosher iPhone Apps seem to be filtering there way through the iPhone App store, so hopefully this is a good sign that the iPhone will eventually make its way towards Israel (perhaps by the time iDigital finishes constructing their Mac store).

Update (9/15): It looks like they have officially bumped up the price to $1 USD (or NIS 3.6). It still is cheaper than its kosher competitors though...

Israel: Heal Broken Hearts Via Seaweed?

(Hat Tip: IsRealli)

Often known as the green stuff that occasionally shows up on beaches, seaweed is quickly gaining a reputation beyond the stuff that's included within ice cream.

It looks as if researchers from the Ben Gurion University have discovered an innovative way to use seaweed gel to help patients recover after a serious heart attack.

(Telegraph) Researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University developed the gel, codenamed BL-1040, which helps to repair heart tissue after it is damaged in a heart attack.

After an attack scar tissue forms which tends to be thinner and weaker than the original. The left ventricle also becomes dangerously enlarged. Consequently the heart has to work harder to function, which can trigger future heart failure.

The gel - derived from an ordinary type of brown seaweed - helps aid regrowth, thickening the tissue and so lessening the risk of a further heart attack.

Tests conducted thus far are promising, with live testing (via humans) being carried out in Germany, Belgium and Israel (of course ;-)).

Israel is already using seaweed for biofuel, which could make this "oceanic grass" invaluable over the next few years.

(Image Credit: Eric Pierce)

Israel's Spikko: Free Calls For "Everyone"

Spikko, a VoIP service that may rival Skype has recently created software for 3G mobile phones. Unfortunately the site is still in beta so it looks as if only 1,000 people are able to use it (thus far).

(Globes Online) The company hopes to recruit an initial 1,000 subscribers, and will later expand the service both domestically and internationally. New subscribers must be nominated by existing ones. Each subscriber receives the company's SpikkoPhone software and an Israeli telephone number, which is used to make calls and accumulate airtime, allowing for the placing of calls for free anywhere in the world. The service also offers video and chat services, and will soon also offer e-mail and instant messaging.

While I have yet to test Spikko for myself, they may find competition against Skype to be pretty tough, especially with the VoIP giant embracing Israel within their global calling plan and Google jumping in via GrandCentral.

It will be interesting to see how well Spikko performs on the global stage (although I would not be surprised if they attracted millions of users with the words "free international calling").

Will Israel Lead The Way In Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is perhaps one of the few "hard sciences" that has the potential to bridge the gap between science fiction and science fact. By creating material at the molecular (and even atomic) levels, scientists can enhance products ranging from drugs to simple clothing.

Even though research into this field is still in its infancy, Israel intends to establish itself as a dominent player within the realm of nanotechnology with a little help from its current President.

(Israel 21st Century) A number of Israeli scientists are on the forefront of research in nanotechnology, and the country's universities, backed by President Shimon Peres, are making the field a priority. Among the latest research to go commercial is that dreamt up by two Israeli scientists, Prof. Avigdor Schertz, from the Department of Plant Sciences at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and Roie Yerushalmi, currently a post-doctoral researcher at Berkeley in California. [...]

With an ability to convert energy from external sources such as light, heat or pH into kinetic energy, the company predicts its invention will answer a need in multiple industries such as the pharmaceutical, diagnostic medicine, sensing technologies and chemical industries.  [...]

One application that the company is investigating is in soldiers; uniforms: "If a soldier is wounded, there would be heat," Arad tells ISRAEL21c, explaining that the clothing's physical properties could be augmented at that particular site to facilitate healing, or make the wound accessible. The fabric could expand, open or retract, in a pre-determined way, to external stimuli.

While nanotechnolgy has the potential to revolutionize virtually every industry on our planet, Israel is also using it to help foster cooperation with their Palestinian neighbors.

Despite the fact that this technology may be years away from "everyday use," it will be interesting to see whether or not Israel leads this field two decades from now.

(Image Credit: NASA / Ames)

Update: Fixed block quote.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Israel Gains An Apple Store (Plus Is An iPhone On The Way?)

(Hat Tip: Israelity, Image: iPod Touch from iDigital)

After gaining the right to distribute "all things Mac" inside of Israel, it looks as iDigital will have its own store to seel Apple products in the real world (instead of only being able to sell them online).

(Jerusalem Post) Israel is set to get its own Apple Store around the beginning of September, according to an Apple rep I spoke to this week. But like so many things here, the local version is just different enough from the "real thing" to be - well, different.

According to Michal, who represented iDigital (Apple's local licensee in Israel) in our conversation, the Apple Store Israel "will give customers the full Apple Store experience," although the store will not be operated by Apple, as Apple Stores elsewhere are. [...]

One thing they won't have at the new Apple Store Israel is an iPhone waiting line - because iPhones still won't be available. According to Michal, iDigital is doing everything in its power to persuade Apple to work out a deal with a local cellphone service provider. For various technical reasons, such an arrangement has not been made yet, but she's "hopeful." 

Even though the coveted 3G iPhone has not arrive in Israel (at least yet), its good to see that iDigital is pushing to have the device enter the country.

Israeli's can still do their part to help convince Steve Jobs that the iPhone is worth being blessed by kosher hands, although the best place to mention their desire may be at the upcoming Mac store (which should be opening at the Ramat Aviv Mall (English readers can click over here).

Note: Just for your info, IsraGood is iPhone friendly!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Skype To Israel: Unlimited Calling Now Included

It looks as if one of my favorite VoIP programs, Skype has recently included Israel within its unlimited calling plan package.

(Share Skype Blog) When we launched our subscriptions back in April, we had always planned to increase the number of countries included. And today, we’re happy to announce the first two new members of our unlimited calling club: Finland and Israel (finishing 22nd and 9th respectively in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest). [...]

Unlimited World subscriptions now include calls to all landlines in Finland and Israel — if you’re on the Unlimited World subscription, you can now make unlimited calls to landlines in Finland and Israel for no extra charge. [...]
Both Finland and Israel can now be picked as calling destinations for Unlimited Country subscriptions too, which offer unlimited calls to landlines in those countries specifically.

This should make it easier to for those living in the US, Israel, etc., to call each other without fear of spending too much money (which is a good thing for those living in the age of "runaway" inflation due to gas prices).

Unfortunately this only includes land line phones (which may be bad since many--if not most--Israeli's carry a cell phone) but hopefully in the future they will consider expanding it towards cell phones as well.

Note: I may just sign up for the global plan now, and replace my GrandCentral button with one from Skype. This will be very helpful, whenever I need to contact friends, teachers and (if I am lucky) some green tech companies in Israel.

Israeli Scientists Find New Ways To Kill "Die Hard" Bacteria

Perhaps one of the most abundant organisms on our planet, bacteria serve a useful role in helping keep all of us alive. Unfortunately there are a "few" out there who attempt to kill us, promoting many doctors to issue antibiotics in an attempt to fight off some of the more deadly species.

While this generally works for most of the tiny creatures, some bacteria seem to have found a way to fend off being destoyed by slowing down their metabolism. Fortunately for us, an Israeli scientist may have found a way to kill off these pests as well.

(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affiars) Although antibiotics are the preferred treatment against bacterial infection and disease, it has become apparent that some diseases can't be treated simply by administering antibiotics. Sub-populations of some bacteria can avoid the lethal antibiotics by decreasing their metabolism, remaining dormant for days and waiting for the right opportunity to strike again.

Researchers at the Hebrew University studied these dormant bacteria and found two new ways to kill them: either by subjecting the bacteria to a fresh dose of nutrients together with the antibiotic treatment, or by infecting those dormant bacteria with phages, namely viruses that attack bacteria. In both cases the survival of these dormant bacteria was significantly reduced. 

While the idea of using phages may make some people nervous (as the word 'virus' usually doesn't bring up thoghts of joy), tempting these harmful bacteria with "sweetened poison" could allow us to finally exterminate these tiny pests, saving doctors as well as patients both time and money (at least for the patient that is).

(Image: Escherichia coli, Credit: National Institute of Health)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Israel To Hollywood: Why Not Film Your Flick In The Holy Land?

(Hat Tip: IsRealli)

Anyone who has ever traveled to (or even lived) in the holy land can probably inform you on just how diverse the Jewish state is. With forests, beaches, deserts, mountains, archaic skylines and one very salty lake, Israel could provide the perfect background for a variety of movies.

In order to help "spread the word" about Israel's landscape, the government has proposed a bill providing incentives towards foreign filmmakers to shoot their movies within Israel's border.

(Ynet News) While Israelis are unlikely to wake up inside the set of "The Truman Show" anytime soon, the government does want to turn Israel into a huge filming site. [...]

The bill includes clauses such as a 20% decrease in the cost of movie productions whose expenditures are NIS 8 million (roughly $2.3 million) or more; a 15% decrease in the production cost for movies that were co-produced and where foreigners spent NIS 4 million (about $1.15 million) or more in Israel and value-added tax benefits for production services given to foreigners for producing movies in Israel. 

Even though movies such as You Don't Mess with the Zohan and In Treatment (on HBO) have helped to blaze a path for Israeli flavored films/shows, hopefully the Israeli government's incentives will not only attract more film makers to the holy land, but also help them understand what Israel is truely about (and convey that in their movies).

Israel: A New Way To Reconstruct Hips?

Hips, like many body parts come in pairs. Unfortunately if one of your hips is injured, your life quickly slows down to a "crawl," with surgery being the usual remedy towards fixing your hips.

While reconstructive hip surgery has come a long ways since they were first pioneered by John Charnley, they may not be too healthy for patients in the long run (note: pun not intended), due to the extra wear and tear upon the surrounding bones.

Fortunately it seems as if a company called Active Implants has developed a unique way of helping both the elderly and the marathon runner protect their injured hips--without causing more damage to their neighboring bones.

(Israel 21st Century) Active Implants' TriboFit Buffer is a pliable, resilient cap that fits snuggly in the socket in the hipbone that connects with the head of the femur to form the hip joint.

Made of a soft, pliable polycarbonate-urethane material invented only in the mid 1990s and already used successfully for cardiac surgery, it provides the same elasticity and cushioning as human cartilage. In addition it mimics the stress distribution functions of a healthy joint, and induces lubrication. [...]

"A healthy hip joint comes with a shock absorber, a layer of cartilage and fluid, that helps to buffer the impact of significant loads and to establish normal stress distribution," Stephen Bradshaw, president and CEO of Active Implants tells ISRAEL21c "With optimum lubrication, you can essentially eliminate wear."

Even though Active Implants technology has yet to clear FDA approval, their product is already attracting attention from investors (according to Israel 21st Century).

With the growing population of humanity entering into their golden years (translation: old age) or becoming more active in high risk sports, we may see Active Implants product become more widespread--at least throughout the western world.